Keepers' Diaries, May 2003

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- May is always one of the loveliest of all months in Nairobi. The April/May rains have produced a feast of green, the wild flowers adorn the pastures, the wind is stilled, and the ambient temperature is deliciously comfortable – neither too hot, yet not yet too cold for all inhabitants, whether four legged or two.

01 May 2003

Laikipia and Salama peacefully approached, and joined two giraffe who had a small baby with them. The elephants tried to investigate the giraffe calf with their trunks. Emily and Aitong came along, and wanted to chase off the adult giraffes and keep the baby, but the giraffe family left, their baby safely in amongst them. Following the noon mudbath, Mweiga joined Solango under a tree. Placing her trunk gently over his back lovingly, she dozed but whenever Solango tried to leave, she brought him back. They spent the rest of the day close together.

02 May 2003

Thoma followed the milk tractor, but when she found herself alone, screamed loudly. The Keepers took the other babies to join her and take their milk. Nyiro chased a baboon onto a post in the evening, and ran into the Post in the process, which made him scream so loudly that it frightened all the others, who ran out. This brought Emily into the Stockade in a rush to see what the problem was, but Nyiro was uninjured.

03 May 2003

Solango finished his bottle before Mweiga, and went to beg some milk from her, raising his trunk and laying them on one of her tusks. Mweiga ignored him, but went with him after the milk session. They spent the day browsing together. Back at the Stockades in the evening, Mulika pushed Sosian away from the Copra cake, but the Keepers intervened to ensure he got his share.

04 May 2003

Today all the orphans decided to spend the day together rather than split into separate groups. Burra went up to Emily, who tried to put him between her front legs, but he was too tall to fit! At 2.30 p.m. the orphans joined a wild group of 12. Edie and Ilingwezi played with wild calves of their size. Aitong’s foreleg was scratched by a sharp stone, leaving a shallow wound, but it did not impede her movement.

05 May 2003

Salama was shoved against a tree trunk when he tried to mount Loisaba. He yelled, but Loisaba continued to squeeze him against the tree causing him to bellow. Aitong came to his rescue, but Loisaba was so angry that she was not pacified until Aitong put her trunk into Loisaba’s mouth. Having been rescued, Salama went to hide near Emily. Meanwhile Lolokwe was pushed by Laikipia after a wonderful mudbath, and he also screamed for help.

06 May 2003

At the mudbath, Nyiro challenged Burra to a pushing match, following him into the water and trying to mount him. Burra sought refuge near Yatta, who shoved Nyiro away. In the evening, Solango went into Emily’s stockade to be with Mweiga, but Ndara pushed him out. Mweya welcomed him into her Stockade, comforting him by laying her trunk over his back.

07 May 2003

After the mudbath, the orphans were joined by a herd of 6 zebra, and all fed peacefully together until Mukwaju and Nasalot charged in amongst them, after which Icholta got kicked on the mouth by one of the zebra. She screamed loudly and Emily came to her, touching her mouth with her trunk. Thoma was very scared and sought refuge with Aitong.

08 May 2003

Sally suckled Aitong’s ear after finishing her noon milk. Aitong had escorted all the babies to get their milk from the Tractor. In the evening Mvita chased Lolokwe round and round the Stockade after he had tried to mount her. In the end he escaped from the Stockade through the open door.

09 May 2003

Sosian found himself alone when he got left behind in the morning. He screamed and Solango went back to receive him. Upon joining the others, he charged around breaking small trees. A tough fight broke out in the evening between Edie and Ilingwezi after Ilingwezi had taken water up in her trunk and poured it over Edie’s back. Emily went in between them to separate them.

10 May 2003

The babies, Sosian, Mweya, Thoma, Burra and Solango went to the mudbath ahead of Emily’s group of older orphans and there found a wild elephant bull submerged in the water with only its head visible. This scared them, and they rushed away screaming to Emily, who escorted them back. The wild bull allowed Ndara and Tsavo to climb on him.

11 May 2003

Mweya, Sosian and Thoma lagged behind whilst the other orphans proceeded to their noon mudbath. They came running, screaming, and Mweya led the three to the mudbath where Sosian initiated a tussle with Burra, angry for having been left behind! In the evening Ilingwezi went into the Stockade where Mvita and Lolokwe usually sleep, so they chased her out and into her usual place, which is in with Emily. Natumi welcomed her, stretching out her trunk and laying it over Ilingwezi’s back.

12 May 2003

Kinna and Mweya both slipped into the mudbath from the slippery side, and bellowed. Aitong came to the rescue, supporting each calf’s head with her trunk and foreleg in order to help them up again. The orphans joined a wild group of 7 elephants led by an old cow at 2.30 p.m. Emily played with a wild bull of her age.

13 May 2003

At noon, during the milk feeding, Solango approached Sosian whilst Sosian was taking his bottle. Sosian viewed this as a threat and attacked Solango, so the Keepers had to intervene. Near the mudbath, Natumi charged a buffalo which was resting under a tree. The buffalo refused to move, until Laikipia, Salama, Icholta and Mulika provided some back-up for Natumi! The old buffalo strolled over to another thicket, and stood his ground, and the orphans left him there.

14 May 2003

At 8.10 a.m. Aitong took Sally with her to join a wild group of 5 elephants. Sally was enthralled with a wild baby of about 5 months old. They re-joined the other orphans later. At l0 a.m. Nyiro and Lolokwe were enjoying a game, shoving one another here and there. The game ended when Olokwe pushed Nyiro into a thorn bush.

15 May 2003

After mudbath Salama mounted Mukwaju, who sought protection from the Keepers. In the afternoon at 3.20 p.m., the orphans joined a wild group of 6 elephants. Laikipia was pushed down when playing with a wild calf of his age. He bellowed loudly, and the wild Matriarch came to his rescue, helping him up.

16 May 2003

Mweya tried to hijack Solango’s milk at noon, and was given a stern warning by the Keepers. Mweiga followed the milk tractor for a long way on its return, thinking that there must be some milk left in the bottles.

17 May 2003

After a wonderful mudbath, Kinna and Edie went for a dust-bath together and were enjoying a game, rolling on each other. This was spoilt by Tsavo, who came to try and mount them. Sally and Burra charged and chased away 2 dikdiks who were drinking at the mudbath. They managed to corner one, but were afraid when it made a clicking sound. At 3.20 p.m. the wild Matriarch “Naomi” took Emily’s and Natumi’s group to the top of Mazinga hill. All the elephants (19) spent the whole night together and did not return to their Stockade. The Keepers were anxious, and spent the night outside the Malaika House trying to ensure that the orphans were O.K. Our orphans returned to the Stockades at 5 a.m. in the morning, when they took their ration of Copra Cake, after which they went with the Keepers as usual to browse in the field.

18 May 2003

Rain fell in the morning. Sally was leading the baby group, all of whom trumpeted with happiness. At 6.30 a.m. the orphans were scared of a buffalo who stood in their way. Emily and Aitong tried to move him, without success. Thoma, Solango and Yatta sought shelter with their Keepers, and Emily changed their course so that they all avoided the buffalo. Later, they all enjoyed a wonderful noon mudbath during which Salama and Laikipia began a shoving match, but were separated by Icholta.

19 May 2003

Solango was in trouble whilst taking a dustbath because he sprayed dust into Sosian’s eyes. Sosian came to take revenge, but Solango kept a safe distance. After the mudbath, the babies joined a wild group of nine elephants. Salama and Sosian had a wonderful pushing match with wild friends of their age. The orphans separated from the wild group at 5.10 p.m. leaving Sosian and Salama behind, but Emily returned to fetch them.

20 May 2003

It was cold today, so the orphans were reluctant to take a mudbath, although Sosian went into the water. All the others opted for a dustbath, with Mweya showing them all the different options, squatting and tossing her trunk skywards. Back at the Stockades in the evening Lissa with her first calf and the new baby came to greet the other orphans. There are two Monitor Lizards who have made friends with the orphans and their Keepers, and who live at the Stockades. Today both appeared to look for worms in the elephant dung, both looking larger than usual, and very healthy.

21 May 2003

At 7.30 a.m. our orphans joined a wild herd of 13 elephants. Mweiga was afraid and screamed when a large wild cow came to inspect her genitals. Aitong came to calm Mweiga by touching her shoulder with her trunk. At 3.30 p.m. another herd of wild elephants joined the orphans, Salama and Laikipia having made the first approach. These two played pushing games with wild friends of their size.

22 May 2003

The day began with light showers of rain. Burra, Sosian, Thoma and Solango made their own mudbath on an antihill, sliding down the slippery sides, with trumpets and running here and there. Sally and Mweiga joined in. In the evening 3 wild elephants with a one month old baby joined the orphans. Mulika and Nasalot followed the baby closely, but when Aitong stretched her trunk to touch it, the mother pulled the calf in between her forelegs, but did not push Aitong away.

23 May 2003

Sosian and Thoma found themselves left behind when the others went up the hill. They bellowed and Mweya returned to collect them.

24 May 2003

At l0.10 am., Mweya’s group were afraid to join a wild group of 6 who had two babies. Sosian made the first approach, which gave the others confidence. They spent half an hour with the wild elephants, and only separated when they heard the milk tractor approaching. Ilingwezi and Yatta draped their trunks over each other after a wonderful noon mudbath and began testing their strength by pulling each other’s trunk. Yatta found that Ilingwezi was stronger.

25 May 2003

Following a wonderful noon mudbath, Solango, Lolokwe and Icholta got scared by a baboon who jumped down from the tree under which they were taking a rest. Solango’s whole body was trembling, and for the rest of the day he remained very close to the Keepers. Generally, all the orphans are very healthy, although Mweiga is still think and weak, and is always last when returning up the hill to the Stockades in the evening.

26 May 2003

There is always a competition to see who can reach the stockades first in the evening to have milk. Sally found herself beaten by Solango, and pushed him against the electric fence. He screamed, and the Keepers rushed to open the gate. Tsavo, Ndara, Loisaba, Mukwaju and Laikipia charged and chased away 2 bushbucks that came to drink at the mudbath. They chased the bushbuck to the KWS airstrip, but got frightened when a plane approached, rushing back into the mudbath where they mudwallowed “excessively”

27 May 2003

Burra, Sosian, Solango, Thoma, Mweya and Sally, who were browsing on the roadside followed the water tractor to the mudbath, thinking that it carried their milk! The orphans joined the wild group led by Naomi at 11.50 a.m. and went with them to the mudbath. Naomi did not go into the water but watched all the babies wallowing wonderfully.

28 May 2003

All the orphans joined a large herd of wild elephants numbering around 30 and became completely absorbed into the herd. They separated at 2.30 p.m. and proceeded to the mudbath.

29 May 2003

It was a cold day today, so only Mweya tried to splash water over the others using her trunk. They all ran off, and she became scared, and chased after them screaming. Later the orphans joined two giraffes and browsed in amongst them. Aitong took Sally to feed away from the others.

30 May 2003

Kinna and Mweya found a pig hold and went to inspect it. Having made sure that there was no occupant, they played a game, running around and returning to the hole to put their head in it! Laikipia, who was watching these antics, took Salama, and they played the same game before all went to the mudbath together.

31 May 2003

All the orphans joined Lissa, Uaso and Lissa’s two wild-born babies, who came to join the orphans as they were leaving the Stockades at 6 a.m. Mweya, Sosian and Thoma browsed next to Lissa’s youngest baby, who is about 4 months old. Lissa allowed the three orphans to touch her baby, but pushed Emily and Aitong away whenever they tried to do the same. Aitong’s leg wound has healed. A flock of about 15 hornbills are very friendly to the Keepers, perching on a tree outside the canteen and given the Keepers remains of food.